The Wise Owls
Hoot Loot identity card helps secure Southern Connecticut State University
- By Steve Blake
- Apr 21, 2008
Can an owl keep a 12,000-student university safe?
It can when it’s designed into the identity card
program at Southern Connecticut State
University, whose mascot is the Fighting Owl. SCSU—
spanning 168 acres in New Haven, Conn.—is in the
midst of a $230 million campus renovation.
University officials believe campus security is a critical
component of the renovation. At the heart of its
security is the SCSU Hoot Loot card, a multipurpose
identification card for all university students, staff and
faculty. Named for the school’s mascot, the Hoot Loot
card is a far cry from the paper cards with
laminated photos that once represented the university’s
ID card program.
Give a Hoot
The university hired Mark Waters, director of financial
business applications, as the card office coordinator in
2000 to set up the ID card system. Today, that system
includes seven part-time student employees who are
trained to verify identity and produce ID cards.
Because SCSU is a state institution, it has an added
level of security before cards are issued. Students must
present an official photo ID, such as a driver’s license, as
well as their academic schedule or proof of enrollment.
Faculty, staff and others must present a photo ID and a
letter of authorization to verify affiliation with the university
and entitlement to an ID card.
Today, the cards serve multiple purposes.
“First and foremost, the Hoot Loot card is a mandatory
ID card for everyone on campus,” Waters said. “It is
important that we be able to identify who actually
belongs here and who doesn’t.”
There are several versions of the ID card, identifying
undergraduate, graduate, full-time and part-time
students; administration; faculty; staff; faculty emeritus
After the Virginia Tech shooting incident in April
2007, SCSU changed the orientation of its cards.
Student cards are printed horizontally because they are
carried in purses and wallets. Faculty and staff cards are
printed vertically, in a badge format, and are expected to
be worn at all times.
“We want our faculty and staff to be easily identifiable
as authority figures on campus,” said Jordan Jones,
card office assistant. “This is important on a campus
with 35 percent adult learners.”
The SCSU Hoot Loot ID card can be used on and off
campus. For the 2,600 students living on campus, a magnetic
stripe on the card provides access to their residence
halls, where users enter a preprogrammed PIN after
swiping their card in the card reader for two-factor
authentication. For all students, the card can be used to
access the university’s computer labs, as well as health
services, laundry machines, the bookstore, the fitness
center and vending machines. A bar code on the card
enables users to check out library books at the Hilton C.
Buley Library, while the magnetic stripe enables them to
pay library fines or use self-service copiers and color
printers. Hoot Loot cardholders also can access SCSU’s
online Web service, BannerWeb, thanks to each person’s
unique eight-digit card identification number.
Off campus, students can use Hoot Loot cards at a
variety of locations, from Greek restaurants to gas stations
and UPS stores. Hoot Loot cardholders also can
receive nationwide discounts through a student discount
membership that can be incorporated into the card.
Not only does the Hoot Loot card lessen the need to
carry cash, adding to a student’s personal safety, but it
also helps students avoid credit card interest fees and the
possibility of overdrawing a bank account. Students, faculty
and staff can add money to a card at five locations
on campus or through a secure online center, called
MyCard Online, where they also can check the card balance,
print out their card history or change their PIN.
Ahead of the Curve
Hoot Loot cards are printed in the card office using the
Fargo DTC500 Series direct-to-card printer/encoder
with a lamination option. When it came time to upgrade
the printer, Jones knew where to go.
“I’ve worked with ID Wholesaler for some time,”
Jones said. “They directed us to Fargo because they
knew our needs. We knew that Fargo received good
reviews, especially in higher-education applications.”
Jones and Waters chose the Fargo printer for several
“We knew we wanted to print on two sides of the
card,” Waters said, “and we also wanted a built-in
encoder for magnetic stripes because the campus has
many legacy devices that use magnetic stripe technology.
We also wanted it to be a network printer. It was
important that it be a stand-alone device and not tied to
a desktop computer or server.”
The Fargo printer is kept in a secure office in a
secure building to prevent tampering.
Jones, who manages the day-to-day operation of
the card office, which includes customer support,
also wanted a printer that could handle the pace of output
“We were impressed with the speed of the DTC500,”
he said. “It cut our card production time in half or better.
There are no cumbersome parts. I like the what you see
is what you get version of installing new ribbons, card
media and laminate. The lamination capability was
important in providing durability for our students. We
issue one card for the entire length of a student’s education
here, which might be as long as five or six years. We
want it to last.”
A $10 replacement fee is assessed for the first card
that is lost or stolen. After that, the cost increases to $20.
Waters knew back in 2000 that schools looking
at ID card programs should view their primary
purpose as providing a service to the students, faculty
p>“If they always keep that in mind,
everything they do will at least stay
even with the curve,” Waters said.